Almost everyone knows you can get a driving while under the influence (DUI) charge if you have been driving after consuming enough drugs, alcohol, or a combination of both, to be impaired. However, did you know you can get a DUI even if the car hasn't moved an inch? In fact, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, you may get a DUI charge even if the car isn't turned on and running at the time the police discover you. This is commonly referred to as a “parked car DUI.”
Basic DUI Laws in the State of Georgia
In order to understand parked car DUIs, you must first understand the many different ways one can get a DUI in Georgia. The DUI statute reads:
A person shall not drive or be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle while:
(1) Under the influence of alcohol to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
(2) Under the influence of any drug to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
(3) Under the intentional influence of any glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
(4) Under the combined influence of any two or more of the substances specified in paragraphs (1) through (3) of this subsection to the extent that it is less safe for the person to drive;
(5) The person's alcohol concentration is 0.08 grams or more at any time within three hours after such driving or being in actual physical control from alcohol consumed before such driving or being in actual physical control ended; or
(6) Subject to the provisions of subsection (b) of this Code section, there is any amount of marijuana or a controlled substance, as defined in Code Section 16-13-21, present in the person's blood or urine, or both, including the metabolites and derivatives of each or both without regard to whether or not any alcohol is present in the person's breath or blood. Georgia Code § 40-6-391 (a) (emphasis added).
Most people focus on the “driving” portion of the statute, but the language “be in actual physical control of any moving vehicle” is just as important as the driving part of the statute. Both types of conduct come with identical consequences, which can include incarceration, a fine, probation, and the revocation of driving privileges.
“Physical Control” and DUIs
The public policy behind charging people who are in physical control of a car with a crime just as serious as those who are impaired and actually driving a vehicle has to do with public safety. Someone who is in physical control of a car is mere seconds away from being someone who is driving a car. Obviously, if that person is impaired, that person may be dangerous to themselves and others. As such, it is important from a public safety perspective not to have to wait until someone puts the car in drive before stopping them from driving.
However, physical control is a matter of degree and can be subject to interpretation.
Consider, for example, the number of seconds between the following steps when a person:
- Is at a house party drinking and is impaired.
- Has the keys to the car in a pocket.
- Steps onto the front porch of the house.
- Walks to the car in the driveway.
- Removes the car keys from the pocket.
- Unlocks the car.
- Goes inside the car in the driver's seat.
- Drops the keys on the floor of the car.
- Gets out of the car to better be able to find the keys.
- Locates and picks the keys up.
- Gets back inside the car.
- Puts the keys in the ignition.
- Turns the car on.
- Puts the car into reverse.
- Puts their foot on the gas to start the car moving.
At every step of the way, the person is within seconds of driving a car. Where is the line between being safe and being in physical control? The answer to the question of when someone is in physical control has been decided by prior cases. In this scenario, once the person puts the keys in the ignition, he or she has physical control of the vehicle.
However, it is possible the courts may find the person is in physical control once inside the vehicle with the keys in his or her hands. There are other circumstances that may also lead a court to conclude someone has been in physical control of the vehicle. For example, if the tires or hood of the car are warm, suggesting the car was recently driven, and there is a single person inside the car who is impaired, this may be enough to establish physical control. If a car is parked at an odd angle on the street, not in an area usually reserved for parking, this could be an indication of physical control. Similarly, if the car is parked in the middle of the street, this may indicate physical control.
Every Case is Unique: Contact a Parked DUI Attorney in Gainesville GA Today
Every physical control case comes with its own set of unique facts and circumstances. Just because a fact may be relevant in one case, does not mean it will be relevant in another case. For example, if instead of getting in the driver's seat, imagine the person opened the car with the keys, then climbed into the back seat of the car and fell asleep. An argument could be made there was no physical control in that circumstance.
Because every case is different, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Hall County DUI attorney about the facts and circumstances of your case. Our Gainesville DUI lawyers have the skill and experience you need to represent you in your parked car DUI. Contact us today for a free consultation.